WHAT’S IN THIS REVIEW?
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If you’re looking for a cheap, solid provider on the fly, Celo VPN may be a great choice for you.
The biggest question you have to first ask yourself is why you need a VPN. Is it for online anonymity? Security? Bypassing censorship?
Celo offers advanced security options, like multiple protocols and military-grade encryption. Yet, there are some areas where it’s fairly inaccessible compared to much of the competition.
A one-month Celo VPN plan was purchased for the purposes of this review.
Celo is genuinely great when it comes to providing protocols or for trying out nifty privacy features.
However, the various budgetary constraints are there if you look closely, whether it be the tiny server network or the AOL quality speeds.
That’s not to say that there weren’t various benefits to be gleaned, but it’s not smooth sailing on the whole.
Read on to find out exactly what we thought of Celo VPN in our extensive review of the service.
About Celo VPN
Not to be confused with the similarly named cryptocurrency, Celo is a VPN provider that says: ‘Security, Support and Speed are our priorities’.
Celo’s About Us page uses a lot of words to say very little.
For example, they’re based in New South Wales, Australia, but they don’t actually mention that anywhere. It’s not the greatest region to HQ a VPN from a privacy perspective, especially considering known intelligence agreements between Australia and worldwide surveillance groups.
Celo is owned by Celo Net Pty Ltd, which has been operating since 2015. It’s the only VPN under their umbrella, which is good news.
Aside from that, you’ll have to dig deeper to find out anything of substance. The Celo Blog page is empty, and there’s no information about the team behind the software, or even any updates about their plans for the future.
Given the above, it might not be the best option if you’re hoping to find a service that values transparency.
Pros & Cons
Celo VPN has a range of benefits and flaws that we’ve distilled into the bullet points found below. Weigh them up for yourself when considering whether or not the service would be ideal for you.
Don’t count this list short. Pros outlined here are quite strong for any provider:
- 8 simultaneous connections, rather than the typical 5
- Various protocols supported, and more than normal
- Affordable pricing
- Live Chat with real customer support personnel
- SOCKS5 Proxy, solid encryption
- Additional security features such as port forwarding available
- Clean user-interface
As always, no VPN is perfect. Here are a few drawbacks we flagged as we tested out Celo VPN:
- Client apps are built with Tunnelblick
- Mediocre speeds with every server tested
- Money-back guarantee is only good for 10 days, instead of the usual 30/31
- Lacking additional features
- No verification for their logging claims
How does Celo VPN do in terms of features? Their website makes a compelling case compared to much of the competition in the image above, especially if you’re looking for a little more than the usual range of flashy extras.
However, as the macOS app is built using an open-source Tunnelblick client, there wasn’t really much worth mentioning aside from the ability to access different protocols. You’ll be able to set up a kill switch and make other minor adjustments, but it’s not the most expansive piece of software by any means.
We’ve listed a few of the key features you’ll find with Celo VPN below.
Port forwarding is useful when operating servers, or for P2P functions. However, when port forwarding is enabled, your device is directly exposed to the Internet, with no protection from the VPN service.
Happily, Celo will “allow up to 2 ports to be opened/forwarded on up to 2 OpenVPN servers/locations”.
You will have to open a support ticket and specify what OpenVPN server you would like the ports to be set up on to do so, but it’s a good addition to their service.
They also have an in-built ad/malware blocker, which offers a thin additional layer of security for the user.
Everyone and their grandma has some form of ad-blocking software nowadays, but it won’t hurt to double up while also benefiting from the use of a VPN.
They use “bleeding edge techniques involving Asynchronous I/O and Event-driven programming” to bypass network censorship and blocking on certain websites and web protocols. It’s undeniably another helpful feature.
- 1 Month: $6/mo.
Rather than a selection of fees and tiers, I was greeted by one simple plan on Celo’s Pricing page, coming in at $6.00 per month. That places Celo firmly in the low-budget range, which is great if you just want to use a VPN for a short business trip or a holiday.
(I actually refreshed the website and tried a different browser to be sure the page was loading properly, as I’m so used to seeing multiple contract options while in the process of testing and reviewing providers.)
It’s a refreshing change from typical VPNs who push customers towards longer deals, although that does mean that it’s possible to miss out on potential savings if you’re in for the long haul.
In any case, $6.00 per month is a fair price, even if the service is a little rough around the edges in some respects.
If you plan to use a VPN for years, maybe you’d be better served looking at a long-term deal, but this is the lowest price for a monthly service that I’ve seen in a significant amount of time.
Then again, I did find this image at the bottom of their VPN for Android page:
It might be the remnant of an old payment page, which would make sense given the price for a month is displayed at $7.00, rather than the six dollars I was charged. In any case, the savings are negligible.
Payment methods include PayPal, credit or debit cards, and an impressive list of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Dash, and Monero.
Lastly, they offer:
“A 10-day money-back guarantee. If for whatever reason you are unhappy with our service or have troubles getting the service to work, we will refund you no questions asked within 10 days of signing up.”
It’s significantly shorter than the 30-day industry average, but they do allow for eight simultaneous connections, rather than the usual five.
A strong logging policy ensures that a VPN provider will take proper care of user data. Celo is left wanting in some respects, despite their efforts to allay any fears.
- We do not log any user activity
- We do not keep any server logs
- We do not give your personal info to any third parties.
- We do not cooperate with any requests for information unless we are ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction and the vast majority of these requests would not be from a court of competent jurisdiction.
“When ordering service on our site, as appropriate, you may enter your valid email address or other details like address if credit card payment is used. First and Last names are optional.”
That was news to me, as it didn’t look like it was ‘optional’ during sign-up. At the very least, they don’t make that clear to the user.
Meanwhile, the lack of any third-party audit makes it impossible to verify any of the logging claims they make. You’ll just have to trust that they’re taking care of your data ethically, which is difficult when a company lacks transparency.
Celo only has a handful of servers in a few locations, but that doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on the overall connection speeds as long as they’ve opted for quality over quantity. It was time to test them out for myself!
In the interest of parity, I’ve included a screenshot that shows what my speed stats are like with no VPN connected.
The recommended server was located in the UK, not too far away from me in London. However, there was a massive impact on the overall download speeds while connected, as they fell by almost 300 Mbps.
The ping was stable, and upload speeds actually increased ever so slightly, but it’s still a devastatingly poor result for the provider.
I moved on to one of Celo’s U.S. servers and loaded up the speed test site again. Results were similar, although upload speeds were now halved. Again, it’s disappointing if you planned to use the VPN for any particularly intensive tasks.
Finally, I decided to test out Tokyo. Sure, the ping would be horrendous, but would they be able to provide similar speeds on Japanese servers?
The answer is a resounding no. Roughly 17 Mbps is pitiful when compared to my normal speeds, or even the 70 Mbps I saw from their US servers. In any case, it’s fair to say that Celo VPN can only offer speeds that are on the slower end of the scale.
Anyone with a true need for speed would be better off looking at an alternative option. It’s a shame, but something had to give considering the low asking price and the numerous security/privacy features.
Server Locations & Network
Celo has a small server network on offer, encompassing just 14 countries worldwide.
They claim to have ‘real worldwide dedicated VPN servers’ in the locations listed above, which is somewhat troublesome if they do have physical servers listed in Russia.
In 2019, the likes of NordVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, and HideMyAss exited the region after the government sent notices to 10 VPN providers demanding they register with a telecommunications regulator and hand over access to their servers or face a ban.
As a budget VPN, Celo was never going to have the most extensive list of servers to choose from, but I expected more than 20. Compare that to some of the bigger providers, who have thousands of servers in worldwide locations at their disposal.
Celo’s server support is non-existent in some regions, while we’ve already noted that speeds will suffer if you’re connecting to a country that isn’t the U.S. or the U.K.
Streaming & Torrenting
I figured Celo’s smaller network could cause issues while streaming, although they say:
“We have specific US & UK streaming servers for tv/movie content. These servers are built into our OpenVPN client. To stream U.S. or U.K. content, you just need to install the Windows, macOS, or Linux OpenVPN client.”
However, for mobile devices, you’ll have to download the relevant OpenVPN profile first.
After the app has been installed, you’re supposed to; ‘connect to either US-Stream (443 or 1194) or UK-Stream (443 or 1194) servers.’
There were a couple of issues when I tried to access the servers at first, causing OpenVPN to stop responding entirely.
It’s not a great result, and I had to restart my computer to get it working properly.
In terms of testing, first up were their UK streaming servers. Unfortunately, iPlayer didn’t work, and the same was true for Disney +.
It was a similar story for their US servers, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you were hoping to find a VPN for Netflix.
It’s disappointing, and another crack that begins to show if you peer at Celo too closely. With only 20 servers, the IP addresses they use were always going to be blocked promptly by broadcasters.
A number of their WireGuard/IKEv2 servers do support P2P file sharing and torrenting, with a list of compatible locations found here. It should work with lots of popular clients, including:
The speeds might not be good enough if you’re using Celo to download or upload lots of files, but it is capable of getting the job done at a slower pace.
Overall, it’s a mixed result and one that makes it impossible to recommend Celo from an entertainment standpoint.
They say that they allow the user to:
“Make censorship a thing of the past. Using a VPN lets you bypass all of that and continue to access any website you want, regardless of any censorship laws that might exist in your country.”
That’s not strictly true, given the problems I faced while attempting to unblock streaming platforms such as Netflix and iPlayer.
Celo does allow for the use of torrents which is an anti-censorship move, but they haven’t joined any relevant organizations within the sector, and they don’t donate to any causes. Lastly, they don’t seem to offer free accounts to anyone affected by censorship.
They do offer a sturdy VPN at a low price, but they’re probably not the best choice from an anti-censorship perspective.
Platforms & Devices
Celo has app support for a number of platforms and devices, but it’s a wholly disappointing experience if you were hoping for anything other than the basics. Celo will work with;
- NAS devices
However, only Windows and Mac have dedicated apps, even if Celo allows for the installation of its platform via config files and third-party tools.
That means there are no browser extensions, and it’s going to be difficult to get to grips with for new users if they’d prefer a VPN for mobile use.
Of course, the macOS/Windows apps are built using free Tunnelblick software as a basis, so there’s nothing important that was specifically added in terms of features or utilities. It does the job, but it could be much easier to use.
Encryption & Security
With a selection of options that includes OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2, SSH, ShadowSocks, SOCKS5, and V2Ray, Celo has you covered if you’re looking for a range of the latest protocols and protections.
This goes along with industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption to form an impressive overall package.
Additional features such as a SOCKS5 proxy and port forwarding are also available, although you will have to take extra steps after downloading the software in order to get started.
It’s a common theme, as you will probably have to follow user guides in order to access many of the features, which might be difficult depending on your level of experience with VPNs.
There’s no denying that they’ve implemented some cutting-edge tech, but it’s not going to be easily accessible for the average user.
As a premium VPN goes, Celo fairs pretty well. The more I used Celo, the more I grew to like it. They offer various privacy features at no extra cost, which does give them an edge over the competition in some respects.
On the other hand, it comes at the expense of some trust, especially as there’s no audit of their software available, and they’re a tiny provider located in a Five Eyes country. I would refrain if you’re overly suspicious, or if you’re honestly worried about government censorship. (Think back to how much info they ask for during sign-up.)
For all of the interesting features they’ve added, Celo isn’t completely usable compared to many other providers. It’s the opposite of noob-friendly and even crashed on me while I was trying to access their streaming servers.
The pricing is a strong point, even if I found remnants of older plans on a few of their web pages. After all, a flat $6 per month is a fair price for a budget VPN, especially one that tries to offer more for less. However, their refund policy is 20 days too short, even if they allow for a few more simultaneous connections than most providers.
The speeds were a major concern, and something they should look to improve in the future. It was always likely to happen, as they only have a tiny server network, and there are numerous people connected at any given time. Other options like CyberGhost offer a far greater network if performance is your main concern.
Overall, the foundations for a great service exist underneath a slightly shabby outer layer, which is why we still rate it above average. You could do better, but you could also do far worse than Celo.